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Hasta la Vista Baby
Terry Faulkner & Alejandro Barragan

"Honey?" Wagner McShort's voice almost sounds sincere as it penetrates the morning calm. "Where did you leave the photo album? Honey!" He repeats himself.

"It's on top of the bookcase where you left it last year." Anna's voice sounded as if it were filtered through the mound of gravel the taxi had driven through upon their arrival last night. The flight had landed at the Puerto Vallarta airport 4 hours late. They made a brief stop at Sr. Pancho's Restaurant. Edgar and Abraham prepared their favorite seafood dishes and although the Margaritas had given them a momentary lift, the couple barely had enough energy to unpack their toothbrushes before retiring.

Anna, now awake, wondered why she could not smell coffee brewing? Her mind quickly scanned the past 37 years and could only recall two such occasions in the past. The reasons had long ago escaped her memory. "Wagner? Sweetheart? Is everything Okay?"

"My God, Anna. The sons-of-a-... have added on to their villa and blocked almost all of our ocean view." She could not remember a time when he sounded so dismayed. "Look at the photos I took last year. They have ruined it all." Anger, quickly apparent in his voice. "Get me the attorney's phone number..."

At this point, the possible outcomes are as numerous as the time and pesos they could end up costing. A lot will depend on whose advice Wagner and Anna listen to. The best advice we can offer you is the surest. Create a Neighborhood Association and protect yourselves and your investment against non-permitted projects. You will need no official sanctioning, licensing or registering if no dues are to be collected for the association.

There is truth in the phrase, "it is more advantageous to ask forgiveness than to ask permission." Construction projects on the bay where not always monitored as well as they are now. Still things can happen and you can't always be around to protect yourself. Here's how to fill that void.

First, deliver an invitation to each of your neighbors. Visit two or three square blocks of them, even the ones you may not care for. It is common ground for mending hard feelings. Invite them to discuss the formation of a Neighborhood Association. Give them your phone number along with the time and place of the gathering.

Second, set a date for the group to meet more formally in the near future. Ask everyone to bring to this next meeting evidence that they can or should represent their property. Get a piece of paper and pencil in the hands of a temporary secretary. Make a directory of names, addresses and phone numbers. Unless there is an objection, make this list available to each property representative. By ballet or affirmation elect a president, vice president, secretary and someone who is somewhat bilingual. Translators at group gatherings are common. Not only as a courtesy, they are vital if you wish to communicate with each other. Turn the meeting over to the new officials.

Third, discuss past, present and future issues that your neighborhood should address. In addition to construction, these may include such things as street repairs, water leaks and pressure problems, beautification of green areas, neighborhood clean-up days, street lighting, security concerns, proposing changes to your zoning restrictions, or a neighborhood beach party to mention but a few.

Ask for volunteers who can pick up copies of building or zoning information pertaining to your area. Check first with Obras Publicas at City Hall (The Presidencia) as to where you can secure these documents. These restrictions will include such things as height limitations, percentage of constructed area vs. percentage of green area, off street parking requirements and the type of use, residential, multi-family or commercial.

Others can obtain additional information on various concerns and present their findings at your next meeting. Although it is everyone's obligation, you will also need volunteers for vigilance. They can keep an eye on things when others are away. Listen for construction sounds and investigate. If something appears like it needs action from the Association, contact an officer.

You have come together as neighbors to protect each other's security, rights and personal freedoms. You are the only ones who can offer each other the comfort of knowing, "someone else is watching out for me."

Fourth, when something does merit the Association's participation, nothing carries the power of a group of neighbors. Sometimes the Association may want to submit a recommendation regarding an issue. You could save someone at the city a lot of time and probably present a better solution than they may have. You don't have to take sides. You do what is right given the situation and the rules that do or should apply.

Zoning Restrictions were not adopted to protect views. Over-taxed sewer systems, low water pressure, unreliable electrical service and parking shortages are major results of allowing a neighborhood to be over built. Occasionally a view will be lost. Don't let it happen in violation of the rules.

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